Director Stephen J. Anderson states in one of the extras on this DVD that the point of this frequently brilliant and always engaging romp is "to let go of the past and move toward the future," wise words indeed, and words that Disney itself may have been living by after its little contretemps with Pixar. It's hard to know how much influence Pixar's John Lasseter (an Executive Producer here) had on this clever souffle of a movie, but it certainly has a lot more heart and laughs than virtually any other recent non-Pixar Disney release.
The film manages to balance itself between almost Looney Tunes or Jay Ward outright wackiness (a villain who seems modeled on Snidely Whiplash, for example, not to mention several Monty Python-esque non sequiturs and visual gags that seem to come out of nowhere) while remaining down to earth enough to gently tug at the heartstrings throughout as it follows the journey, through both time and self-awareness, of Lewis, an orphaned whiz kid whose childhood invention might be the future savior of mankind. Or something like that.
The film is a triumph of character design, each whimsical Robinson family member's concept perfectly matched by the excellent voice work of such veterans as Adam West and Laurie Metcalf. The whole film's look is bright and breezy, not quite Pixar-perfect, but certainly heads and shoulders above such recent Disney efforts as Chicken Little.
The time travel plot is properly convoluted, and as a devotee of such machinations, I was pleasantly surprised not to have guessed at least one of the major twists that provides part of a very touching denouement. The film is so full of great character bits and sight gags that the plot, as clever as it is, almost takes a back seat to the simple enjoyment of the gags, something which again harkens back to the classic age of the Looney Tunes.
If this film portends the future of Disney, maybe they have finally found their animation footing again after several missteps. I for one hope so.